June 23, 2014
While many chemical engineering students choose to pursue a traditional course of study for a degree, some are supplementing with a minor that includes courses in business, technology, and management.
The Hoeft Technology and Management Program at the University of Illinois bridges the gap between engineering and business education. A select group of undergraduates from the Colleges of Engineering and Business learn together in an integrated environment, working toward a University Minor in technology and management. The program works closely with corporate partners and helps students to become tomorrow’s leaders in technology and business.
Among those are Kendra Gargas, a junior chemical engineering student, who says she wanted to take part in the program to have greater insight into the business field. “I felt that the Technology and Management minor would give me this exposure and it seemed greater aligned with my career aspirations than a traditional business degree,” she said. “This minor helps prepare me for a potential leadership position that requires experience from both business and engineering.”
Gargas says enrolling in the program confirmed her aspirations of pursuing a leadership role in a technical field. “Before the Technology and Management minor, I was certain that I wanted to work in the consumer products or food industry. However, after being exposed to all of my options through the minor, I am becoming interested in other fields such as the oil industry.”
As part of the program students complete a capstone project during their senior year with a corporate affiliate such as Abbott, Walmart, BP, and Boeing. They also have the opportunity to travel to China for a business immersion experience.
Gargas says she is looking forward to that trip this summer where she will be able to continue applying business principles to technical solutions to successfully solve problems.
“This program has given me my first exposure to real life companies and case studies. This is a valuable supplement to what I have learned in my traditional engineering classes.”
Chemical engineering junior Nick Connolly enrolled in the program to learn more about how business, engineering, and technology work together. “I have entrepreneurial interests and believed that this program was the best way to gain knowledge that could help me later to start my own business.”
Connolly says from the courses he has learned how to apply creativity and monitoring feasibility to chemical engineering. “My marketing and new product development classes have expanded how I approach problems,” he said. “I look through a more creative lens, especially when beginning projects.”
Since being accepted into the program, Connolly said he has gained more interest and is more confident in pursuing an entrepreneurial venture in the energy or brewing industries. “I have always been excited by the idea of starting a company or working for a start-up but this program has showed me that with proper training and discipline, there is no reason not to go for it.”
For Carol Grzych, a chemical engineering junior, pursuing this minor is the perfect program for a business-minded engineer.
“The program has given me exposure to business course work, professors, and students—exposure I would have otherwise never have had strictly within my engineering curriculum,” she said.
Focusing on case studies and presentations with the program has allowed Grzych to supplement her studies with this type of learning. “And, I have learned the most from my peers about how to stay connected in the business and engineering fields with a strong network.”
When chemical engineering junior Melanie Golden applied to the program she wanted to pursue product development for consumer brand companies, earn an MBA, and work in technical management. “The program was perfect since it gives engineering students an insight into the business industry,” Golden said.
She said the program has exceeded her expectations, helping her to see a different way of thinking and learning than her traditional technical engineering courses. “I have learned how to communicate effectively within the business world and understand the motivations and driving forces behind managerial decisions made throughout a firm.”
Because of her studies through the program, Golden says her desired career path has shifted away from the business world and toward a more technical one including the pursuit of a master’s in chemical engineering. “Yet, I still have found that everything I have learned from T&M will be incredibly useful throughout the rest of my career,” she said. “The ability to understand the business world and management structure of a company is crucial throughout every step of designing and manufacturing products.”
Michael Richards, a junior chemical engineering student, says he enjoys the program because it allows him to interact with students from engineering and business. “One of my favorite aspects of this program is the exposure it has given me to other students within the College of Engineering and the College of Business as well as industry professionals,” he said. “It has served to provide a very well-rounded education to supplement my technical degree.”
He says enrolling in the program was the right fit for him because he wants to move into management/business roles in his future career. “I felt that I could challenge myself more. And, I was interested in the professional development and relationship building that it offered alongside the business knowledge.”
Working with a diverse team on group projects has helped Richards continue to hone his skills. “And, the knowledge I have gained through this program will greatly help me during my internship with BP this summer.”
For more information about the Hoeft Technology and Management Program visit techmgmt.illinois.edu.